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It's time to re-focus and get prepared - lockdown won't last forever, says Danny Murphy of Berry & Rye Group in Liverpool.

If you were to ask a financial advisor the best time to invest money, you would likely get the response: “The best time is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” That's because of something called compound interest. Put simply, it is the steady growth of money that can only be achieved through time, and staying invested. The sooner you invest, the better. 

That’s apt advice for us in hospitality at this moment. Not that money is something any of us have to spare right now, but what we do have is time. Back in March of 2020, when the powers that be decreed we were a ‘non-essential’ industry, we were stolen of vital purpose and left with 24 hours a day in which to sleep, wake, eat, and not work. By the time hospitality eventually reopens, some of you may not have set foot in work for over a year.

While this time may feel inert, it is also finite. Lockdown will one day be lifted for good, becoming a collective memory. Our mentality must now be that of treating the remaining time as a gift. We must appreciate this period. This is an opportunity to invest in yourself. And a time to prepare yourself for the next phase.

At time of writing, reopening could happen anytime between April-July. So at the very minimum that’s six weeks from now. What can you be doing? Firstly, read books. The ones that until now were only ever used for reference, or to impress as a Zoom background. No books? No problem. The internet is an infinite (and free) source of erudition if you look in the right places. You’re already in one of them - CLASS has much of its back catalogue on this site.

If reading isn’t your bag, YouTube and Instagram are full of short videos from your peers, all with pearls of wisdom that you can add to your arsenal. Perhaps best of all, you can do. Grab your jigger, an empty bottle, and a pour spout, and practice pouring like a pro. Reacquaint your muscles with the memory of shaking. Using raw rice in place of ice will help your technique, and is cheaper.

Now is also a great time to reach out to people in the industry you aspire to/admire for direction and advice. Louis Theroux’s excellent podcast, Grounded, has seen access to high profile guests who previously would never have had the time because they were too busy. Think: is there a bartender, author, or distiller whose brains you’ve always wanted to pick but never thought the time was right? Chances are that time is now. Find them and make contact. They might reply.

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Some of you may be reading this thinking: “Why should I not invest this time to learn something else? Another skill set? A change of career?” That’s understandable. In the Winter 2020 issue of this magazine Edmund Weil shared a well-founded fear that the result of the dual battles with Covid and Brexit means “the love affair with hospitality may be wearing off”.

However, as Edmund also noted, people are already leaving this industry. This will leave gaps. Opportunities in places where there weren’t before. But only for people who are ready to seize that opportunity.

Most who enter hospitality don’t envisage it as their career, so they fail to treat it as a profession. The successful people in this industry always avoided this mistake. As others have dropped away, these people were the ones who held on, climbed the ladder and compounded their advantage over the years. They’re the type of people Louis Theroux would have on his podcast if he was in the bar game.

But they may well be too busy to speak to him - the best and brightest of our industry will already be busy in preparation for reopening. They’ll be getting ready to show a public starved of great drinks and devoid of real connection that they belong to an industry that is “essential”. In other words, the best time to have started to invest in yourself was last year. The second best time is today.